NEW DELHI: “We cannot allow Kashmir to deteriorate, we must stop it, we must get out of the negative spiral. Something concrete needs to be done so that we can stop the fire that is devouring the most beautiful Valley of the world,” said the now ageing son of Maharaja Hari Singh, Dr Karan Singh in an impassioned speech in the Rajya Sabha today.

Rajya Sabha met yet again to discuss the situation in Kashmir. Almost the entire Opposition---with perhaps the exception of the Samajwadi party whose Ram Gopal Yadav remained fixated with Pakistan---urged the government to immediately start a dialogue with all sections of society in Jammu and Kashmir and stop (“ban”, as Dr Karan Singh said) the use of pellet guns.

There was little to suggest a shift in the government position, with most speakers from the treasury benches focusing on Pakistan that the Opposition lawmakers also held responsible but as many pointed out, its interference was not new, had always been there, and hence given the fact that the current situation had blown out of all proportions, a new level of introspection and intervention was urgently required.

PDP MP’s Nazir Ahmad Laway and Mir Mohammad Fayaz spoke with passion but said little of substance. They welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on Kashmir, and while admitting that the crisis was acute, sought to attribute this to development issues. Most opposition MPs, on the other hand, were agreed that the issue was political and should not be seen through the development prism.

The sole Kashmiri pandit representative in the House, Vivek K.Tankha of the Congress party said that the people of Kashmir have always treated the Pandits with respect. “We are very upset about what is happening in the Valley, we share the peoples grief there” he said recalling a recent visit to the Valley where a cultural evening was organised for him where stone pelters had been trained in Sufi music. He advocated peace, and the need to address the grievances of the people, and to bridge the trust. He said that the return of Kashmiri pandits to the Valley would expedite a solution, as security forces are not the answer.

Three above average speeches characterised the long discussion that was going on at the time of writing, by Dr Singh now with the Congress party, Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M), and Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal(U).

Sharad Yadav:

1. War with Pakistan is not an option;

2. We have to win the Kashmiris over with love, not with a gun; they are our people, hey are angry, bring them back with love, if we don’t do this, history will never forgive us;

3. Pellet guns are worse than bullets, these injuries are worse than death. Stop the use of these guns immediately;

4. Pass a resolution of the House assuring the Kashmiris we are all with them in this hour of crisis.

Sitaram Yechury:

1. Why is this turmoil in the Valley, why are we not being able to handle it, why are the young people so alienated, so angry, why is there this tremendous trust deficit are the questions we need to think about and answer;

2. Stop the use of pellet guns;

3. Start the political process with an open mind;

4. Pakistan has always intervened, that is not new. When a vulture eats off a carcass, it comes down only after it has smelt the blood. Blood is being spilt on the streets of Kashmir, and vultures from across the border are coming down;

5. Acknowledge the political nature of the problem. Vajpayee had talked to the Hizbul Mujahideen, to the Hurriyat. Re-open the dialogue;

6. Do not look at the crisis through development, it has to be handled politically; unless you address the central question of the promises made to the people of Kashmir and the series of betrayals since you will not be able to create an atmosphere of trust;

Dr Karan Singh:

1. There seems to be a broad based consensus in the House that something, very urgently needs to be done; and there is a great deal of sympathy for the Kashmiris;

2. Situation has deteriorated in the ten days we met last, more people have died, thousands are injured;

3. Pellet guns have to be banned, these are an extremely negative symbol now in Kashmir;

4. 32 days of the stir, has seen a complete breakdown of the civil administration, all essential services, educational institutions, governance itself has been hit and is at a standstill; this has created a huge humanitarian problem that needs to be tackled as a first step;

5. The impression is that the government is disappearing, this is dangerous as if a society starts unravelling as a result, it will create more chaos and violence;

6. We have to introspect why thousands of young people are on a path that can only bring death and destruction, why is the psyche of the Kashmiri so hurt, so mortified;

7. Pakistan we know has been involved for always, why are the young so alienated now is what we need to understand;

8. We have to diffuse the raging fires, but we must also understand that Kashmir is very complicated and complex issue;

9. Have we accepted and legitimised the control of Pakistan over the rest of Jammu and Kashmir, almost 50% of what my father had annexed to India initially? If we have not, then we have to talk. How can we take the position that we will not talk, this is not a mature response; we have to keep the dialogue going;

10. To say Kashmir is an internal matter is an oversimplification, there is a major external dimension to it;

11. It is an integral part, when my father signed the Instrument of Accession it became an integral part of India. But Defence, Communications and External Affairs remained the only central subjects and while other states who had signed similar agreements merged with India later, Jammu and Kashmir did not. Its relationship with India is guided by Article 370 that has given a special position to the state;

12. Integral part does not mean it is same as the rest of India;

13. So the current crisis has to be looked at as a a) major humanitarian issue; b) the external dimension recognised in dialogue; c) special position of Kashmir stated and clarified; and d) regional imbalances and equations within Jammu and Kashmir understood and factored in.